The question on Quora was  Could multicellularity be evolved in a lab in a relatively short time? If yes, has it been done?

My answer was in two parts, which I’ll merge here:

Sort of.  This study (Experimental evolution of multicellularity) selected yeast cells in the lab for a form of multicellularity in about 2 months. It’s debatable whether this is “true” multicellularity, where the cells become specialized (though there was some specialization observed: “With more generations, this form of reproduction began to include specialized cell behavior“).   Still, it was just two months.

There’s a nice explanation of the experiments here: Researchers evolve a multicellular yeast in the lab in 2 months.

This suggests that multicellularity might actually be fairly easy to evolve, and I recently learned about another line of evidence for the same thing.

In Episode 16 of Palaeocast podcastsDr Bettina Schirrmeister – University of Bristol explained “Multicellularity in cyanobacteria”. The interesting point I hadn’t heard before is that it seems pretty clear that not only are many cyanobacteria multicellular, the trait has evolved independently many times.

My intuition said that it would be rather hard to evolve multicellularity, but both experimental and real-world evidence suggest that my intuition was wrong.